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Submitted by scaqua1 on


A team member has asked for some feedback on an issue that I (surprisingly and luckily) have not encountered.  He has a direct that performs their job in a "fine" manner.  We want to grow this DR and coach them to be exemplarily.  If my colleague had time to micro manage the employee, the overall productivity and effectiveness of the department would go up.  However, we would like the DR to take initiative instead.  Some background on the personalities - the DR is emotionally tied to their performance and has never responded well to constructive feedback.  My team member has been managing for about a year and formerly worked alongside the now, DR.


Right now, I'm suggesting to re-look at goals and find a way to make "taking initiative" measurable and time based.  Any other suggestions would be appreciated!

JonathanGiglio's picture
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Beyond O3s, coaching, and feedback - it's important to give this person clarity in their job function, including stretch goals.
People will take initiative if they're shown a path to success. My guess is you have a High C or High S here.
What is your workplace tolerance for making mistakes? Is this direct perhaps gun shy because he has or has observed people get punished for errors? Do you reward risk taking?

What you might consider is, instead of tasks with short lead times, create plans with longer stretches of time between checkin. This would probably go against Manager Tools guidance, but if you want your direct to "find their own way", you've got to give them runway.

Also, remember - just because they don't do something your way, doesn't mean they're doing it the wrong way. I'm somewhat concerned about your use of the word "micro-manage". This is certainly NOT the way to get the most out of any employee, particularly one you're trying to get to take initiative.

Finally, does this employee have different strengths you CAN be leveraging? Not everyone enjoys rising to the occasion. Sure, it's not a trait lacking in most CEOs, but not everyone wants to be a CEO either. Are they more conscientious? Is their work higher quality than their peers? Does the team rally around them when they are involved in a project?

The most recent Podcast on Manager-Tools from Mark's Paris conference could help as well.
Can your peer (I assume) go to a whiteboard and write down the three most important goals of his boss's boss? Or even his own boss (your boss as well I assume)? That would be a good place to start.

williamelledgepe's picture
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A large, nebulous phrase like "take initiative" sounds to me like the start of a coaching topic - if it could be defined and developed into a more MT goal.  I echo everything said above and add only the detail of turning "take initiative" into a coaching opportunity.  

Kevin1's picture

Lot's of good ideas already 

One question to ask is 'are you, or your direct's long line of previous managers, a large part of the problem?'  In other words, are you contributing to the behaviour you don't want.

There is a great cast on a similar topic called Develop A Sense Of Urgency In Your Team

The golden nugget in this comes right at the start and highlights how the manager is contrinuting to the lack of urgency in the team.  Perhaps, you, or previous management, have not provided the right environment to encourage initiative.

Worth checking out first.

Kind regards



mjpeterson's picture

"Taking initiative" is not a behavior and therefore not something you can give "Feedback" on. Define the behavior you are looking for and it is now not a personality issue, but a job responsibility.

scaqua1's picture
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Thank you everyone for the input.
From my perspective, the direct gets what their core job is and can recite the mission of the organization is. However, I do not think they are bought in to the mission.

A scenario that parallels what our situation is:
A DR at a hotel is sent to clean room 203. They clean room 203 and meets expectations. If a guest were to see that room, they would be very satisfied with the cleanliness. However, a guest must walk down the hall, to the elevator, and down another hall to get to their room. This is the same path that the direct takes. However, the direct does not find it important to pickup any gum wrappers, trash, etc. that they encounter on their way to clean the room, even though they have more than ample time to do so and can always ask for additional support from coworkers and management. The guest no longer is "very satisfied" with the cleanliness.

With our situation and the scenario above, I do think looking at institutional goals (or the bosses goals) will be important. Knowing the DR's personality, it will also be crucial for us the remind her that this is feedback to make our team and organization better.

Again, thank you all for your responses.

williamelledgepe's picture
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In the example stated, the feedback should be specific to not cleaning the hallway - somethign like, "Can I give you some feedback?  When you leave debris in the hallway, guests don't have a good impression of our cleanliness.  Can you please pickup debris in the hallway in the future?"

pucciot's picture
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I just wanted to dovetail on your previous remarks. Looking at the corporate goals together would lead to the right direction.

In your example above about the hotel cleaning here are some questions you can ask :

Do you believe that your responsibility is only to clean the rooms ?  Only to clean just on one side of the door ?

If you were to see something that needed cleaning or fixing anywhere inside or outside of the hotel, is there any negative risk for you to take care of it right away or to report it to the responsible person ?

If you were a guest here, how would you view trash in the hallway ?

Do you believe that I would appreciate it, if you did that ?  

Do you believe that our guests and customers would have a better overall experience here if you and every employee really cared about the whole hotel ?

I know you take pride in your work.  I always assume that you want to do a good job. 

Did you know that "looking out for little improvements and taking a little extra care of the facilities" is actually part of your job ?

Are you afraid that doing something a little extra, like picking up trash in the halls ,will somehow negatively affect other aspects of your work ? - like taking too much time, or trampling onto another employee's responsibility ?  In short, are you afraid there is some sort of risk to you, if you take that little extra step ?

Have I, another manager, or another employee ever discouraged you from taking little risks and making your own decisions ?  We don't want robots or zombies working here.  I like you and respect you.

Anyway - these are a few examples that will hopefully lead the direct into the right direction.

Good Luck



williamelledgepe's picture
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I would take a different tact.  The answers to those questions are obvious - which the direct will perceive as demeaning and/or childish.  Plus they are yes / no questions which won't achieve the objective.  The objective is a specific behavior: picking up garbage.  

I think it is better to state the expectation.

Rather than trying to get the direct to "discover" the expectation on their own through the questions proposed, a simple statement will get you there more quickly and without giving the employee an "evil boss story" to tell others.  

pucciot's picture
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Hey - you are right.  The questions I put up are not open ended enough.

And I can see your point about how, if they were asked in the wrong way, they could be demeaning.

Could those questions be asked in a more open ended way, without being demeaning ?

eg : "You do such a great job cleaning inside the rooms you are assigned.  Please tell me about what you see as your responsibilities beyond that ? "

Your suggestion of a simple stated expectation of "picking up the garbage in the hallway" would not draw out the intended purpose of this forum thread.

The specific behavior desired is that the Direct will take initiative.  The hallway garbage was only an example.

What does that look like ? How can we draw out from the direct "initiative" ?

The past two Podcasts were about "Manager's/Commander's/Boss' Intent"

The key may be somewhere in there.

Take care.